Don’t just stand there – do something

Dissatisfied with your career? On the road to nowhere? Take a look at your options. Believe it or not, at any point in your career, at any time, you always have options to choose from. In fact, there are at least seven different pathways you could choose to tread. Open your eyes to the possibilities and get your career back on track.

Option 1: The obvious one – move out. Leave the organisation that is causing you grief. Turn your back and start anew. Having worked as a recruitment consultant in a past life, I have seen thousands of professionals throw in the towel and move to another organisation. In fact, many recruitment companies are acutely aware that this is one of the key factors that makes them money. The decision to resign comes with inherent risks, as any life decision does. But sometimes it is the best, or only, course of action.

But what of the other options? Just because your current work doesn’t fill you with passion doesn’t mean you’ll be any happier doing the same work in another organisation, or going solo. Many people jump from job to job without ever finding real career fulfilment. Maybe you need to seek satisfaction where you work, and save yourself the time and stress of changing employers. The remaining six options focus on finding opportunities inside your present organisation.

Option 2: Seek increased responsibilities. If you’re feeling undervalued in your current role, or just plain bored, perhaps the answer is to take on more of a challenge by increasing your responsibilities. This move may take the form of a promotion, or just by asking your boss for more responsibility (and the requisite pay rise once you have proved you can deliver).

Option 3: Re-alignment. Make the decision to learn a new discipline. If you’re currently a tax accountant in a public firm and find it hard to drag yourself to work in the mornings, maybe you should consider working in the Business Consulting division. Sure, you’ll need to learn new skills, but if you’ve got to go to work, you might as well do something you enjoy, right? Re-aligning yourself may mean a cut in salary in the short term, but the longer-term pay-off is usually considerably more, both materially and otherwise.

Option 4: Take a secondment. I realise this option isn’t open to everyone, but for those for whom it is a possibility, consider it seriously. Sometimes a change of environment can make the work we do that much more enjoyable. The work may not change, but you can have new experiences in other ways – new workmates, new city, new country, new culture – all of these can be a stimulus for finding renewed enjoyment in your work. All the while working for the same company and retaining the benefits of doing so.

Option 5: Create a new position. For the really pro-active people out there. See an opportunity with your employer and chase it. Start a new project, find new ways of attracting revenue, or re-engineer the department. If you have a vision for how your idea can make a positive impact on the bottom line of your organisation, make it happen. Find a sponsor, enrol the sponsor, and soon you will find yourself so engrossed in your mission that you’ll forget you were ever unhappy at work!

Option 6: Enrich your current role. You may wish to re-design your role to suit you better. Seek out the types of activities in your role that you enjoy and do more of those and at the same time negotiate with others for them to do the work that no longer excites you. Yes, believe it or not, there are people out there that will enjoy the work that you hate. Sad, but true.

Option 7: Do nothing. “What? But you said…” Hold on just a minute. This option is feasible. It’s not about changing what you do or whom you do it with. It’s about internal change — changing your attitude. You hate your current job? You have two choices — do what you love or love what you do. You CAN decide that your job right now is right for you, for now. This is not a cop-out. You are not procrastinating. You are merely deciding that, for now, you will be happy. (This means no more complaining to your partner, friends or dog about work). The question remains – how long will this job be OK for you, and what are you going to do when its no longer OK?

So there you have them — the seven options available to you at any time in your career. If you are self-employed, some of these options (like taking a secondment – to where, the living room rather than the second bedroom?) may not seem realistic. But the message remains the same — life is about choices. At any time, we always have a choice. There are always forks in the road. Don’t just stand there – do something!

n Digby Scott is the Principal Consultant of The Catalyst Group, a career and executive coaching consultancy. Contact him at

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